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Q & A : Danielle sheds 15kgs! Busy mom tells us how.

 Name:

Danielle Steenkamp

Age:

41, soon to be 42

Location:

Pretoria

How much weight have you lost on your journey so far? 

Starting weight 96kg’s end of 2016 when I joined Sleekgeek. The lowest weight was 74kgs in Jan 2019 but has been around the current weight of 78-82kgs for the last 2yrs more or less. So initially 22kgs, but consistently +-15kgs.  

What do you do? [Job]

I currently work in Banking Strategy, I am the Banking License Business Lead for one of the Top 5 Insurance groups. 

What else do you do? [Hobbies, non-work stuff, etc]

I am a socialite at heart, so I do any sport that involves a social element but mostly running/walking. 

I love to sing (and no not in the shower, I can actually hold a tune and have sung in public on occasion).

I love to move my body, especially to a tune. If the music plays I have to dance. 

And then for brain-dead days, I love a good Netflix binge to switch off from work, a movie with my boys (we’re Marvel and DC Legends freaks), or being entertained by my last born.

My hubby is a “busy body” so we’re always doing something, if even just chores around the house, hiking with the boys, anything and everything.  

YOU AND SLEEKGEEK

How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?

I joined Sleekgeek at the end of 2016. 

How did you find Sleekgeek?

A friend, Natalie Lazarus, invited me to join.

What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?

As I am a socialite and social “exerciser” (if such a word exists), the best part about the Sleekgeek community (prior to Covid especially) was that I could meet up with like-minded people, and get myself to move.

Prior to Sleekgeek I didn’t really like exercising much. My husband tried to get me to be active, but I was never at his level. But here was a group of people at my level who understood my struggle. It’s been 4 almost 5 years now, and I have made connections and friendships for life through this community. I love my #sleeksistas. 

YOUR TRANSFORMATION 

Describe the “old you” before you made your transformation. How did you get there and what were you like?

As I said above, exercise wasn’t for me, my idea of being active, was ‘running around’ taking the kids to their activities and feeling exhausted thereafter. On and off again I tried a few things, joined the gym on numerous occasions only to have my membership cancelled because I never went.

I discovered I had a thyroid issue in 2002 already, and always just blamed my weight on that. Mentally I wasn’t healthy and physically even worse. I don’t think I even bothered to climb on a scale as that meant I had to face the reality of it all.

I was never really a big eater, but I was an inconsistent eater, I’d skip meals only to make up for it somewhere else and we weren’t too educated about how to cook healthier options, we often ate takeaways. I used to travel quite a bit for work at the time, so guesthouse and hotel food was often my go-to. 

What ignited your initial motivation to change?

In 2007 I did a procedure where I went from 110kgs down to 72kgs in 7months, that was a drastic drop, which cost a pretty penny to do and I really loved being that size. And I managed to keep it off for some years gaining some slowly over time nothing too drastic. But when I quit smoking in 2014, I gained a lot of weight very quickly but I didn’t take too much note of it. 

I joined Sleekgeek at the end of 2016 just before the December holidays. I remember looking at the photos of my holiday thinking who is this person, when did I get so big, but even then I didn’t react, until I went to an Endocrinologist appointment in Jan 2017 where she put me on the scale and did all kinds of tests. Getting on that scale, gave me the fright I needed to catch a wake-up. It was now or never to lose the weight, or I was going to be that “110kg” girl again, and that would have meant I spent all the money on that procedure for nothing.

I joined the first Sleekgeek challenge of the year, “The New Years Challenge”, and I’ve never stopped entering challenges since. 

What are some of the things that the new you does differently now?

I’m very conscious of labels, I scan labels when I go into a shop especially if I don’t know the product (yes I take long to shop because I analyze everything, so my hubby never goes with me).

I believe in slow and steady wins the race, I’m not an all-or-nothing kind of person, so I have managed to keep things relatively consistent over the years. 

I meal prep, especially when I’m in challenge mode. I think before I order in a restaurant, and I generally plan that if there’s additional calorie consumption planned due to an event, that I can account for it somewhere else.

Exercise is life, I cannot skip long periods without exercise – it’s my go-to stress reliever. Even on holiday, we pack gym/running kit with. 

What are some of the things that the new you still struggles with?

I still need to find ways to up my protein intake.

Keeping it clean 80% of the time vs 70%, that extra 10% is probably why I’m staying around the same weight and not reaching my goal weight as yet. (Carbs is still my favourite nutrient on the menu, and I’m not even talking about the processed kind. I love potatoes, mielies, butternut, all the healthy kinds, but they’re still carbs and I seriously need to adjust them down.)

And sometimes, finding the time for meal prepping can still feel like a mission.

And since I have kids and especially the little guy, and a mom who likes “nice things” in the house, my food cupboard isn’t always the friendliest, so trying to keep away from the “tuckshop” stash is still very hard.

Then of course the dreaded weekend entertainment calories can derail one ever so slightly. 

If you could give yourself 1 piece of advice to help with that struggle, what would it be?

  1. Prepare better for weekends especially, because it really can kill all the weekly efforts, and bring your 80% effort down to that 60 or 70% effort, and in life, I believe you need to “Pareto” everything i.e. 20% effort (so apportionment to planning) for 80% of the reward (to reach the 80% clean eating). If you don’t constantly prioritize what matters, then the stuff you let slip through the cracks will start to show. I’m not an intermittent faster, but on occasions when I know I’m going out to a place where I’m not sure what is being served, I generally skip or have a low-calorie meal to compensate for what I may eat (or drink) later. If you count calories that is, know how much can come from your drinks as well. 
  1. Exercise will never outweigh a bad eating plan. Yes in my case it did help me maintain or ward off some of the bad eating choices I made, but it’ll slowly creep onto the scale and get you stuck in that plateau. So stick with the Sleekgeek Motto, “Eat clean and train dirty” 

Did you plateau, get stuck, or get disillusioned, or even slide backwards a bit on your journey?

Disillusioned:

I started increasing my carbs when I increased my distances, as I believed at the time that “runners can eat more carbs” because they just burn it off, right, WRONG. I slowly picked up weight, a few 100grams here and there, and before I knew it, it became kilograms. I hit a plateau because I was basically just cancelling out the calories with the running. I’ve now learnt differently, and to bring down my weight again, I had to make some changes to my eating plan, and switch things up, which is not always easy for me, because I can eat the same food every single day #predictablemenu

What is better since you got healthy? 

With my thyroid condition, I generally had very little energy, imbalanced hormones and my skin was in a bad way as a result of it. Since eating cleaner, I’ve managed to get my hormone levels at a much healthier level, which helps regulate a few things and my skin especially stopped acting out. I love that I don’t break out anymore, and my body knows when I eat something wrong, it immediately reflects it in my skin.

TRAINING 

What’s your favourite form of exercise? [Running, yoga, weightlifting, etc]

I love running, and a swim every now and again.

I recently started yoga for rehab for my hips and back (working from home has increased my sitting time and conditioning when I’m not running.

How long have you been training and how did you get started?

I initially just used to walk a few times a week, and maybe only 9 months after walking, did I start running. Our running program includes conditioning, so there was a bit of that too. But I also joined an online coaching program about 3 months while trying to fly solo, and the program introduced me to bodyweight training, which I started to thoroughly enjoy. When the running bug bit, I pushed distance goals and that became my preferred form of exercise. I was also challenged to enter Midmar mile with a few school friends, so in between,I swam as well. 

What does your typical workout look like?

With all the running, I soon learnt from a podiatrist and later an Orthopaedic surgeon that I have biomechanical deformities in my knee, and should try to focus on other forms of exercise instead of constantly running. So with the help of a Bio, Physio, and Online coach my current program entails:

  • Monday, Wed, Fri, and Sat I do my strength or weight training session combined with my Bio’s exercises (this is to help me correct muscle imbalances to eventually be able to run at peak again).
  • Tues, Thurs, Sat and/or Sun I either just walk or do a combination of walk/run. (But I may not exceed 5kms at this stage and I may not exceed a certain pace as well).

So typically weight sessions are structured by an online coach via an app and include Bodyweight, Barbells, Dumbbells, Kettle Bells, Bands, and Machines. I generally do about 10-15min stretching/yoga directly after my weight session. 

Favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]

Favourite distance is 10kms, but I love fartlek sessions (my version of adrenaline)  

Favourite weight session involves kettlebells

Favourite yoga poses/stretches are lizard, frog, cat-cow, child’s, cobra, swan, and a few others. I generally stretch out my entire body, focusing on my back and lower body.

I’m addicted to foam rolling, so much so that I’ve actually caused bruising in the past so it’s best to stick to 30sec per body part.  

Least favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]

I’m not a ‘cross fitter’, so don’t ask me to climb poles or ropes. Although Keshni would love to have us climbing monkey bars with her. 

And then which person thought we should be doing chin-ups, although there’s no better exercise for back definition, or so I’m told. Hate burpees with a passion, but don’t mind throwing a tyre or two. I don’t like cycling and for some reason, every specialist loves telling me how much I should be cycling given my mechanics.  

How does exercise make you feel? 

I love exercising, it’s my stress reliever. A few years ago that would not have been me. The worse my day is at work, the harder I push myself to exercise. If I go 2 days without exercising, my whole mood is affected. 

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?

Both. When I do weights alone. I put on my headphones and get into my zone. When I run with people because a long run can be so rough, so you need someone to talk you to the end. 

Most embarrassing training moment?

I used to find it embarrassing but lately, I couldn’t give a dam. 

I play my music so loud in my ears, and in between sets, I start dancing. Initially, people used to stare at me, and then I was like, so what I pay my own gym membership and I ain’t standing on your toes or in your space, am I? Now it’s my thing. The regulars just smile and carry on. 

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag?

  • My Bluetooth headphones and phone.
  • Water bottle
  • My bands and towel. 

Oops that was 4 or 5 things. 

Your next training goal?

I want to start seeing muscle definition and build my legs so strong, my hips and knees can’t help but cooperate with me!

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?

Only 5 you say, those who know me, know my music taste stretches across just about every genre, but when I train its dance music when I work its classical (ex opera’s, aria’s or symphonies, that’ll mess with your brain) :

  • Kiss me more – Doja Cat
  • Love Nwantiti – CKay 
  • Pretty Please – Dua Lipa
  • Cold Heart – Elton Johan, Dua Lipa
  • So I want you –  ft Kylie Bailey Remix

Most house music (local is also lekker, old and new school).

How has exercise/training/Sport Changed your life? [Made it better, etc – please be specific]

My husband is a sports fanatic, and I think it’s the one thing we can do together. We’ve seen all sides of South Africa because of the events he has entered, and I guess me being active, gives me the energy to second him on all his “crazy” events. I have also met so many interesting people through sport. 

NUTRITION

What’s your favourite meal?

Sushi and really meaty but not too saucy burgers. 

OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?

Chicken breasts and green salad (all the bell pepper colours, butter/cos lettuce, tomatoes cucumber). I eat this for at least 3 or 4 meals a week, call me boring, but I like predictable and sometimes I add air-fried potato wedges. I dress my salad with Tabasco sauce because it has no calorie count. 

Favourite protein?

Definitely chicken

Favourite fat?

Avo

Favourite carbohydrate?

Potatoes

What’s your nutrition philosophy / approach? [If you have one]

When things get boring, spice it up with a varied recipe. Consistency is key, don’t try and do all the things, all at once. Slowly adapt little things at a time, and then start to make it a habit so it becomes 2nd nature. 

How many meals a day do you eat?

3 and I sometimes include a protein shake

Do you have a cheat meal / treat strategy?

When it’s cheat meal time, I consume fewer calories in my other meals to make up for the meal. I don’t always get it right especially if I’m invited for supper to someone’s house, but I try to win most of the time. 

MINDSET

Most memorable personal best achievement to date. Something you maybe never imagined you could do?

I have a few I pride myself on:

  • 1st 21km Marathon – Wally Hayward, I was 8 weeks pregnant. 
  • Two oceans 21m Marathon only 4 months after my last child and 10 days later running Wally Hayward 21 for the 2nd time.
  • Midmar mile with hardly any training.
  • Warrior and Muddy princess even though I’m not the biggest OCR fan, but we do it for our friends.

Favourite quote?

Res Severa Verum Gaudium  – My high school motto which I have always lived by. It means “Hard work brings true joy”. 

Favourite book? 

I don’t often get the chance to read, since my 2yr old dictates my sleep schedule, lol but not too long ago, my husband’s cousin recommended I read The Power of I Am by Joel Osteen. Transform your self-image and embrace the power of positive thinking with two simple words: declare “I Am” and celebrate the life God has created for you!

What inspires and motivates you?

Beating my best, I am my own competition. Pushing my boundaries beyond my circumstance, and accomplishing what I started. 

For what are you most grateful? 

A supportive and loving family. A physically active husband who doesn’t allow me to be a sloth but rather challenges me to push my boundaries. A job that gives me flexibility to work at home so that I can train when I can. Sleekgeek family that I can rope along with me. 

What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?

The hardest part they always say is to start, but when you listen to your excuses as to why you haven’t started, listen to them, say them out loud, and ASK YOURSELF, do they sound lame if someone else gave you those excuses, would you be able to accept them! 

We have things and circumstances that hold us back, but if all the Paralympians accepted their fate, would they even have pushed themselves beyond their limitations. Find the why to your excuses and remove it as a barrier. If health is holding you back from living your best life, then do something about it, people depend on you to stick around. If physical fitness is holding you back from experiencing your best life or attending the things you’ve always wanted to, then make it happen. A walk, one step in front of the other, is a start. It’s a step in the right direction. 

There is no hurdle big enough in life, to stop you from achieving what you need to. So I know it’s easier said than done, but “suck it up buttercup” and find your WHY, and make it HAPPEN. 

What are your top 5 tips for anyone starting on a healthy journey?

  1. If you need others in order to be driven, then best you find an accountability group to help you along your way. Sleekgeek is a great place to meet like minded people, and get an accountability buddy. Eventually, you will be able to push yourself, and the people will be an added benefit.
  2. Try many plans before deciding on the one that fits 100%. There’s no one size fits all plan. But don’t try something for 2 weeks and say it isn’t working, everything takes time, so practice makes perfect. Be careful not to become a yo-yo dieter, the best place to start is the Sleekgeek reboot.
  3. Set a goal, small changes feel less daunting and are easier to maintain in the long run e.g.
    1. Month one, get to gym 2 x week, or do a home workout 2 x a week
    2. Month 2, exercise 3 times a week, etc.
    3. This week I’m cutting my sugar from 2 tsp to 1 tsp, next week no sugar
  4. Never skip a Monday, it’s human nature to let it all come crumbling down because Monday was missed, but if you do, start again on Tuesday.
  5. If you’re completely feeling lost and clueless, get a coach to guide you.

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